IoT connects billions of devices together with the purpose of collecting and sharing data with other systems over the internet. Thanks to IoT, people can access a wide variety of data and control appliances through the functions of transferring data. IoT technology consists of a number of layers that all play a role in the way, from connecting things to creating apps that serve a clear objective, whether this is a consumer app, corporate IoT, or industrial IoT. The entire spectrum of these standards is called the IoT stack. In this article, let’s look at the five main layers of the Internet of Things stack.
What is IoT Technology Stack?
The IoT stack is a set of protocols that connects objects to different applications. This allows the devices to perform all their functions: gather and transmit data and perform other procedures. Simply expressed, the IoT technology stack consists of all of the components required for a device to perform real tasks and have a use case scenario. So, there would be no way to use IoT devices and no purpose to connect them to the Internet without this IoT technological stack.
The IoT stack consists of a few layers: device hardware and software, communications, cloud platform, and cloud applications. Although it appears to be simple, the various layers provide a number of technologies. Furthermore, merging the proper technologies in an IoT stack is not only a matter of doing it accurately but securely and cost-effectively.
The IoT will not work properly if any of the layers are missing. As a result, each unit functions as its own network, with its own set of procedures and protocols to follow. When the first step is finished, the command advances to the next level, building a stack of data or instructions.
Also, because of a number of available standards, there are still some issues in terms of compatibility and the capacity of all these technical parts to communicate with each other in practice.
Layer 1: Hardware
The Hardware is at the first level of the IoT technology stack. There are many devices that can be used in IoT. Every day users immediately imagine smart light bulbs, thermostats, smart refrigerators, and others. But the IoT consists of other devices that are not usually visible to the human eye. These can be transducers, temperature sensors, gyroscopes, etc. IoT devices manage key tasks and functions such as system activation, security, action specifications, and communication.
IoT hardware components can be low-power boards and single-board processors, such as the Arduino Uno. They can be connected to the main boards to improve and increase their functionality. One of the main types of devices are sensors. They allow you to receive information from the environment and transmit it to other devices. There are many types of such devices, including
- Temperature sensors.
- Humidity sensors.
- Smoke or gas detector sensors.
Also, there are some other devices, such as gyroscopes and accelerometers. A gyroscope is used to measure and maintain orientation and angular velocity and can be used in navigation systems or camera shake detection systems.
Layer 2: Software
When data is entered into the system, it must be processed. This is accomplished through the use of the software. The software transforms a gadget’s hardware into a smart device. It is the IoT technology stack’s second layer.
The software makes it possible for devices to have a connection with the cloud. Thanks to this, it can perform numerous functions: real-time analytics and data collection from the device’s sensors. This can be usually done with the help of microcontrollers. The software layer is critical because it connects the physical world with cloud applications.
Thre software layer can be divided into two categories:
- Device operating system. Choosing the right operating system depends on whether the application requires real-time processing, what type of I/O support you need, and whether you need full TCP/IP stack support. Linux, Brillo, and Free RTOS are the most popular operating systems.
- Device applications. Device apps provide specific functionality for applications. Developers have a vast range of options to choose from. For example, they may concentrate on data collection and its transfer to the cloud, analytics, local control, and so on.
The IoT software is powered by widely used programming languages. IoT software ranges from general-purpose languages like C++ and Java to embedded-specific languages like Google’s Go or Parasa.
Layer 3: Communications
The third layer is responsible for all communications between hardware and the services that make up the IoT infrastructure. Communication is achieved directly via the TCP or UDP/IP stack, or via gateways. This layer controls how the device is actually connected: wired or wireless. There are several different protocols that control the connection, so let’s look at the main ones:
- WiFi. This is the leading network used for high-performance data transmission for both corporate and home environments. Although WiFi performs high transfer speed, it consumes a lot of power for the Internet of Things applications.
- Bluetooth. This is a short-range communication technology that is widely used in the consumer market. Now, this network is frequently integrated into various fitness and medical wearables.
- LoRaWAN. This technology is mostly used for long-range wireless battery-enabled devices. It helps detect signals below the noise level and is used in smart cities to connect millions of devices.
- Zigbee. This is a short-range, low-power wireless communications standard. Its advantages are security, durability and scalability. The network operates on the frequency of 2.4GHz and has a speed of 2500 kbps.
Choosing an IoT network primarily depends on the goals of the project. It is necessary to pay attention to such things as the amount of data transmitted, the speed required, autonomy, and others.
Layer 4: Cloud Platform
The next layer is the cloud platform. This layer is considered one of the most important because all collected data is stored in the cloud, and users subsequently use this service platform to manage the IoT and its functionality.
The IoT platform provides provisioning, management and automation for all connected devices. It connects a variety of hardware to the cloud with flexible connectivity options, security mechanisms and data processing capabilities. The cloud platform ensures the infrastructure for the support of these levels:
- Analytics. One of the most crucial aspects of any IoT solution is analytics. It entails the ability to interpret data, identify patterns, generate predictions, and integrate machine learning. The value of any IoT project comes from the ability to extract insights from the data.
- Cloud APIs. The Internet of Things is about connecting devices and sharing data, which can be achieved by opening APIs at the cloud or device level. Cloud APIs allow you to interact with devices or exchange data.
Layer 5: Cloud Applications
This is the final layer of the IoT stack. Here, the software analyzes the information received and uses that data to answer key business questions. Now, hundreds of IoT applications exist, and each cloud application has a different level of complexity and function. Some examples include intelligence services, simple mobile apps, etc. Applications can now be developed directly on IoT platforms that include a software development infrastructure as well as advanced analytics and data visualization tools.
Let’s look at some popular IoT apps:
- Amazon Echo. This is a smart speaker that has already become very popular in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It can read news and e-mail, etc. The speaker can be connected to smart home and control various functions by voice.
- Bigbelly. The Bigbelly system helps you sort waste and control how your trash can is filled to the brim.
- Jawbone UP2. This is a wearable device that tracks your physical condition in real-time. Users can track all of their daily physical activity, eating and sleeping habits.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that a successful IoT solution requires the careful selection of each component. The IoT stack is a complex of different technologies that connect objects to different applications. It consists of several layers, including hardware, software, communications, platform, and apps. The IoT stack is an important part of the overall IoT solution. By making decisions regarding the selection of certain technologies, enterprises must consider their specific requirements. Also, it is worth taking into account such characteristics as compatibility, security and cost-efficiency.